Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al Qemzi faces one of the most important tests of his relatively short career when he heads to Campione d’Italia to defend a 12-point lead in the UIM F2 World Championship at this weekend’s Grand Prix of Switzerland.
The rookie Emirati has been a revelation in this year’s F2 series and a victory at the opening round in Lithuania in June was followed by third position in Norway last month.
Those results have given the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) driver a total of 32 championship points with two races remaining.
Al Qemzi faces formidable opposition with a small armada of Scandinavian drivers challenging hard for honours on Lake Lugano.
The Emirati’s closest championship rival is experienced Swede Pierre Lundin on 20 points, while Frenchman Nelson Morin and Sweden’s Johan Osterberg and Ola Pettersson are both well placed to challenge.
Another Swede, Erik Edin, won the recent European Championship title at Kupiskis in Lithuania, but he trails Al Qemzi by 27 points with 40 still at stake over the two remaining races.
Heavy rain curtailed qualifying and practice at this race last year and drivers faced a hectic final day’s action, which saw Al Qemzi and teammate Mohammed Al Mehairbi finish sixth and 14th respectively on their Campione d’Italia debuts.
Al Mehairbi drives the second Team Abu Dhabi boat this weekend. Al Qemzi’s recent third place in Norway proves his Lithuanian win was no flash in the pan and the team’s general manager, Salem Al Remeithi, is confident Al Qemzi can extend his 2017 series lead.
“This is a vital Grand Prix to decide the outcome of the title race,” said Al Remeithi.
“Rashed is ready, focused and determined and we know that a podium finish would be a massive step towards a first ever F2 title for Team Abu Dhabi.”
After technical checks and scrutineering on Friday, the action gets underway with free practice from 10.25 on Saturday. The three qualifying sessions take centre stage from 14.30 with qualifying or a repocharge race at 17.20.
The race itself fires into life at 16.35 UAE time on Sunday.
Just moments after arriving back with his gold medal, UAE skeet shooter Saif bin Futtais has set sights on achieving a top six finish in the World Championship Shotgun in Russia.
The 43-year-old Emirati Olympian did the UAE proud last weekend by topping the podium in skeet action at the Asian Shooting Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan.
It was another medal in his collection which already consists of golds in the Pan Arab Championship and the Cyprus Grand Prix but he is eager to add to his tally when he competes against the world’s best in Moscow from August 30 to September 11.
“The World Championships in Moscow is my next competition and the gold I have just won will give me a lot of confidence,” said Bin Futtais, who was received my members of the UAE Shooting Association on his arrival at Dubai International Airport on Sunday evening.
“I want to finish in the top six there. I know it will be difficult because the world’s best shooters will be there but I’ve won other competitions as well and want to do the same on the world stage.
“If you’re challenging for the top six, there’s always a good chance to win a medal and that’s something I want.”
In the Astana, it was far from perfect conditions for Bin Futtais and the rest of the finalists. They had to overcome gusty winds and temperatures as low as 8°C and the Emirati admits he believed his chances of claiming gold would be slim at the start of the contest.
“I didn’t think at all that I could win gold,” he said, who placed 29th in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“It was difficult because I could not see the targets clearly because of the dark clouds. Although it was tough conditions, my mentality was still the same as I would approach any competition and there were still medals to be won because it was a final.
“As soon as the target was released, I just wanted to shoot and take the perfect aim and it was one of my toughest wins so far.”
Bin Futtais will not have much time to relax and will begin his training for the World Championships on Wednesday with practice sessions in Dubai and Al Ain.
Hassan Al-Nuaimi, a board member of the UAE Shooting Association, lauded bin Futtais’ efforts in flying the UAE flag high at international competitions.
“We congratulate Saif bin Futtais for his gold medal,” he said. “He is an athlete who has constantly performed in the last two years which has placed him among the top shooters in the world.
“We at the UAE Shooting Association are thrilled with his achievements and for what he has done to our sport because he always flies the UAE flag high.”
Dubai Sports World, together with Team Angel Wolf and Omnicom Media Group, hosted the inaugural ‘Together We Can’ campaign on Monday to raise awareness about children with disabilities in sports.
Two customised wheelchairs provided by Omnicom Media Group were available to give children with disabilities the opportunity to race around the track at Dubai Sports World.
The wheelchair racing also marked the seventh anniversary of the summer venue at the World Trade Centre hence why Nick Watson and his son Rio – who form Team Angel Wolf – decided to do complete 7km at 7am on August 7th.
“It was unbelievable. We had an amazing turnout from the general public who have been following through social media. It was a great first for us and a great success,” said Watson, a former Royal Marine and fitness expert, who has been a Dubai resident since 1996.
“The venue is just awesome, it’s huge, and they have so many activities there. It’s brilliant to have an indoor venue where multiple sports can be played throughout the UAE summer.”
Team Angel Wolf started officially one year ago as a non-profit organisation with the aim of getting the community involved.
At the centre of Team Angel Wolf is 13-year-old Rio, who suffers from Q44 Deletion De Novo, which means he struggles with walking and communicates through sign language.
Along with dad Nick, the dynamic duo have competed in 83 gruelling races in the UAE over the past two years.
Whether it’s a triathlon, a tower run, a cycle or straight running race, the pair are always out in force raising awareness and getting the community behind the work they do.
“The idea is to raise awareness and to inspire the community to get healthy. There’s no excuse to not get out and do sport and activities,” said Watson.
“We wanted to build awareness through racing, but now, the focus is the ‘Together We Can’ campaign to let the community experience what I do and for them to get involved.”
This initiative aims to host free weekly community activities for children with disabilities to enjoy sports with their families and volunteers in their local area.
Nick plans to build the campaign going forward, with the aim of getting more wheelchairs for people to get involved to see the work himself and Rio do.
He added: “When we have more chairs we will now run a regular programme, going every Sunday night down by Sunset Mall in Jumeirah, so we can show the community what we do. Our goal is to have 10 chairs by the end of the year!
“I’d love to have 10 chairs for the Dubai Marathon in January and find nine athletes who want to push athletes for the race. We can run together with the ten chairs with the aim of doing the marathon in sub-4 hours. It’ll give exposure for something quite unique.”